But before coming to that let me say that Raju Venkatraman, Sachin and Binny Bansal have given the Indian Automobile industry a big boost by investing in the Ather idea. If successful, this will surely change the face of motorcycling not only in India but also in Africa and South East Asia.
Provided with the right accessories (like elegantly designed solar panels as a roof), these bikes could literally be used where ever the sun shines, even in places where there is zero infrastructure for electricity. In places like Africa where there is enough sun but no electric power the bike could even double up as power plant to power electrical devices. Forget Africa there are so many places in India that do not have electricity. For such places the roof solar panel is a great accessory.
Vehicles are a category where India can take on the Chinese mass manufacturing. The Chinese will not find much success in this space as compared to other products like toys, footwear, phones etc.
Vehicles – both Bikes & Cars are "belongings", where there is a lot of emotional attachment and people want to own it over a much longer period. Vintage is a word that is taken with pride in automobile world. Chinese tried their way by launching a lot of electric bikes in India in a huge way around the year 2007 and they did manage to milk the initial curiosity by selling lakhs of poor quality of electric bikes costing around Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000. Actually these bikes were use and throw bikes, designed to be discarded after the lead-acid battery runs out.
Apart from this there was one more serious problem. The bikes were coupled with possibly the lowest quality battery, some of which stopped working within 6 months. A simple replacement with an Indian Battery brand would have solved at least 80% of the cases, but this was not to be. People were expecting replacement and dealers not only wanted no part of it as they were getting much less profit as the bikes themselves were very low priced.
Some people who used the bike above 2 yrs were shocked to find plastic panels & parts of their bikes falling apart. This was unlike anything that they had handled before. There was much confusion in the market. There was also no "company to contact" and most of the dealer contacts were with websites like 'alibaba'. There was utter confusion in the market. To solve this problem lots of Indian companies were finally pushed by Chinese manufacturers to assemble their bikes in India and push it as their bikes – the result was companies like Hero Electric, Yo-Bikes, Ampere Bikes, BSA Motors, TVS Electric, Ultra Motors, Enigma Motors, EKO, Lectrix, etc. All of them have electric bikes of identical specifications but different colors.
Lets come back to the mistakes of the Mahindra e2o. The biggest mistake is that they have for one model for 10 yrs.
I know the e2o is a big step up over the classic Reva but basically it was just one model the subcompact to compete with other subcompacts and compared price wise all the other subcompacts were much cheaper.
Mahindra Reva should have brought in the electric maxximo and verito soon. Another vehicle they could have introduced is the electric autorickshaw. It sounds unbelievable that China was successful in selling over 200,000 electric rickshaws in Delhi alone while an Indian company is struggling to sell 1% of that number of electric cars since 10 yrs!
If you compare the e2o with the Electric Rickshaw they are worlds apart. e2o is so smart and suave. It is the smartest car yet in India even above the BMWs, VWs, Audis, Mercs etc while the Electric Rickshaw is easily the most silly looking, boxy and boring vehicle in the country. What makes the difference is that Electric Rickshaw is practical costing between Rs 55,000 to 80,000 yet it pulls 8 people at 40 kmph. Anyone can modify the vehicle to increase the speed or pulling power from parts bought from the open market.
But the task before Ather is not as daunting as it was for e2o. Bikes are easy to sell and do not come with added baggage (parking problems, toll fees, higher cost). If Ather bikes can reach 55 kmph, have a good quality battery and can climb gradients like flyovers the bikes will sell in lakhs. To become the top scooter company they have to sell in millions. If they can do that then they will be one of the best companies in the world!
The best thing is I feel the target is very much achievable!
But they have to bring in much more variety than just a single model.
I have listed below a few I could think of and also mentioned their advantages.
A scooter that Ather are bringing out might not appeal to college going men and others who prefer a sturdy motor bike than a scooter.
So a motor bike variant is a must.
Ather could raise eyebrows and create great design innovations by working on such a bike.
The frame and panels can be sold as an accessory.
These bikes could be sold with 2 options slow speed one & higher speed one.
Can carry even heavier batteries for increasing range up to 600 kms!!!
As i said, Ather should look to sell millions and not few thousands! They will need to think big. We do understand that the technology is being prepared and the first model will be out next year. But work on the future models need to start right away.
Releasing a motor bike along with the scooter is a must. Not everyone would like a scooter. A peppy motor bike would appeal to college kids and others.
Ather Energy - You guys are a breath of fresh air in the Indian EV industry. We @ PluginIndia wish you the best!